One of the enchanting aspects that make South Africa a great country to live in are the towns and villages that grace the landscape and our diverse cultural heritage and success stories that fill the pages of our tome.
Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga’s slogan is “op en wakker” and this small town which is the third-oldest town in the former Transvaal is situated 80km from the much larger towns of Newcastle and Piet Retief. “A lively stream in the land of the rising sun” is the Zulu meaning for Wakkerstroom and the local community certainly seem to display leadership qualities that set this small town apart from the rest.
Great effort and forward thinking on the part of community leaders has been the driving force behind a number of community projects that have contributed to economic sustainability whilst at the same time uplifting members of the local community. The community-based Conservation of Birdlife South Africa is one such example and the project has been working with members of the impoverished eSizamaleni community in Wakkerstroom since 2007.
The project has been a major success and is designed to educate and uplift members of the community. The endeavour has set up five community-owned enterprises that each produces products that are linked to sustainable resources and sold to local markets. What this means for conservation is that a vast number of families are direct beneficiaries from the conservation of the area through tourism and can now earn an income, whilst still managing to maintain and protect the fragile ecosystem that continues to draws tourists to the region.
Wakkerstroom is one of South Africa’s premier birding destinations and ornithology enthusiasts flock to the town on an annual basis. The grasslands, wetlands and forests are host to some of the countries rarest bird life and birders are assured of a quality experience par excellence. Local businesses have aligned themselves to offer visitors an enjoyable country experience in the Highveld, with arts, crafts, antiques shops and eateries all offering activities and a variety of wares. The quaint country shops are treasure troves just waiting to be discovered with unique gifts, furniture, linen, garden décor and locally-produced beauty products, as well as wines and locally-produced cheeses.
Recent statistics released by Lightstone reveal that the area appears to be a popular choice for retirees, with 64.57% of the stable owners in the area over the age of 50. The Dana retirement village in Wakkerstroom, which is set on 18.5ha of ground, offers residents magnificent surrounding scenery, excellent infrastructure as well as frail-care facilities. Recent buyers in the last 12 months in the age category of 50 to 65 years and older, made up 60% of recent purchasers to the area.
Property sales, as with many other small towns in the country, have dropped significantly since 2005. In Wakkerstroom, however, the 2010 price averages are on a par with the average price attained for property in the area in 2007 – a possible indication that the property market is recovering in the region. Of the 15 sales that took place in the area in the last 12 months, all were cash purchases, bar one, and all fell into the freehold sector of the market.
The town offers locals all of the facilities that one would expect to find in any bustling community in the country: library, shops, schools, medical facilities and an annual calendar of activities that would make any resident feel proud to call Wakkerstroom home.